Friday, August 01, 2008

Slapping Miss Daisy

Slapping Miss Daisy

Gee whiz, Beave. How can I best backslap the rest of your people and slightly exclude you?! Maybe if I say "no offense".

Growing up I remember using the huge box of crayons with the names you knew someone was overpaid to create (we're looking at you "orange-yellow"). In that box, the one that always pissed me off was "Flesh". Especially since my flesh wasn't "flesh" colored. What were they trying to say? How self-centered do you have to be not to realize the ramifications of labeling one hue "flesh"; dangerous not to just yourself, but your company? Do you not consider how you may be inadvertently offending... oh... say... everyone else? Go find this crayon... if you are around that color, this sermon is for you. Why the "flesh" colored people? Because they are the main perpetrators of the non-compliment. I'm going to use the most recent example in my life but please recognize that "...this type of sh*t happens ev-ery-day!"

So i'm in line at my favorite mega-bookstore (sorry indie stores) and an elderly woman (elderly as in the big 7-0 easily arms-length away for her) queues up with me and starts idle chatter about the usual (waiting in line, the weather, purchases). Personally, I don't need to chat. In fact, I tend to wear my slightly pissed off brotha face -that she clearly did not see- as added protection from chatty folk. Motion denied, so I break out my "representative", as SOP (standard operating procedure) for such occasions. My "representative" is the same 'version' of myself who gets me through job interviews, social gatherings, and first dates. He's really nothing like me; outgoing, personable, witty, slightly under the threshold of cheery that you can tolerate (as calculated by your demeanor), easily carries a conversation, and harbors more charisma than a good politician. No one but your die-hard curmudgeon dislikes my representative. That's his purpose; stand in for me and deal with people. I don't like people. I'll sit back and supervise and correct any miscalculated statements.

So of course after two minutes of civility, Miss Daisy feels she can open up and tell me how she really feels. You know, those moments where the person leans in and says some bullsh*t in a slightly lowered voice. She precedes with the ill-fated compliment delivered loudly enough as if others were to turn and applaud. "My... you speak so well" she exclaims. "Heifer, you can suck my diction" I retort... in my mind ('cause they'd lynch me for that one). Again, Black SOP, I smile and accept the non-compliment politely. Too politely I guess, for she goes on to confide "so often I hear this 'slang' going about. It's so loud and everywhere". She does that thing where people repeat the same idea a myriad of ways. I really was waiting on a "well, I never..." but it never came. I settled for her "even the boys and girls in my neighborhood use it these days." Apparently, I was supposed to be appalled at the verbal corruption of the younger Brady's. I respond "Yeah, tell Wally and the Beave they can keep it"... in my mind. But because i'm evil, I start to f*ck with her. Big store, long line, let's have fun.

Assuming the role of crotchety old lady #2, I respond "Well, I simply can't understand these kids nowadays. I always wonder how the parents let these things happen. Never speak like that in my house, I tell you what." Essentially "Well, I never" arpeggiated over three sentences. Smitten with her new BFF she asks me if I went to school. I respond affirmatively. She asks if I graduated. "B!tch I have a degree!!"... in my mind. Though I feel my brow shoot a "WTF?" which I quickly turn into a nod and "yes, ma'am". Then she asks if I went to college. And next thing I know she's on the floor and i'm standing over her wiping the pimpin' off my left hand then slowly curling it into that Bruce Lee shaking fist. A distant voice exclaims "Juggernaut!!" And gasps erupt from the adjacent escalators... my mind!!! I offer a non-threatening giggle and respond "Yes, ma'am." She thinks my laugh is bashfulness, when in actuality it is more of a "Silly, racist. We've only had the last 40 years." Remember, I am representing the exception to her views of my people, so I must surreptitiously make her feel guilty for being so ignorant and disprove her misconceptions while killing her with kindness. Why? Well, let's break down the meaning in her questions.

AfroThought presents... "Tell 'em why you mad, son!"

K, hold up. HOLD UP!!! She seriously asked me if I went to high school?! High school!! As in, mandatory in most states 'til at least age 16. Wow!! Really?! [In the subsequent paragraphs I could expound upon this egregious insult to the socio-economic status of my people in the analytical jargon fitting a scholar of my caliber and proper education but being aware of how the phrase feeling falls far short of the requisite in comparison to the vernacular she so despised, I am compelled to evoke the proper emotion beginning with...] MUTHAFUCKA!!!

She legitimately wanted to know if I pursued education beyond the 8th grade. In fact, the questions themselves were slightly rhetorical, more so confirming her assumption. She was letting me know that I am different in her eyes. Correction, different in her eyes NOW. As in, she had a hunch that I -unlike the other brothers- thought it was in my best interest to go to high school, why? Because I speak so well. Her questions merely affirmed her assumption. The fact that I have a degree from one of the top universities in the nation, well that's somewhat superfluous. That diploma though... that's about all the achievement she deems fitting to be a stand out among my people.

Wait, how do I even know she meant Black people? Oh right... she pointed me out as exceptional because I spoke so well as opposed to "... slang". [Yes, she habitually paused before saying "slang" as if she was inventing a term each time.] Meaning upon sight she expected me to speak slang, but was taken aback at my command of the English language. Upon sight!! Despite the fact that I had on a collared shirt and khakis ('cause I have a job). No, I was worthy of her respect now because I spoke to her like a normal American. Correction, given the ever-increasing financial restrictions on public education, I spoke similar to the slightly upper middle-class White America. The last time someone non-complimented me in such a manner I slapped them with my degree in language so polite that they actually complimented me again. Happens (with a degree).

Fleshy people, in telling me "how well" I speak, you admit your low perception/expectation of me (and thus those like me). It's like saying you have a Black friend. Really? Only one eh? I'll look for you come Kwanzaa. (Psst, I don't know any Black folks that seriously celebrate Kwanzaa. It's nice, but we have too much Kujichagulia for that.) If you really want to compliment me, then make the subject my character, up-bringing, or education. But don't expect me to gush when you tell me "I speak well". We all should. Besides, if I "speak so well" I probably "think so well" and therefore understand what you really mean.

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